Posted by: The Last Liberal Gwinnettian | October 21, 2010

Deal is shady…but so are his contributors

I recently posted about the Democratic Party of Georgia’s allegations that Nathan Deal has accepted thousands in illegal campaign donations. In that post, I mentioned a man named Marvin Hewatt, a Deal contributor who managed to donate $50,000 via 9 affiliated companies — more than 8 times the legal limit for campaign donations.

As I was writing that post, I had the niggling feeling that I had read Mr. Hewatt’s name elsewhere, in a way unconnected with the governor’s election.

And after doing some research, it turns out that I was right.

Remember those shady land deals out in Gwinnett County? The AJC ran a huge piece on them back in 2009, leading to a grand jury investigation which has thus far resulted in birbery charges against one county commissioner and the resignation of the chairman of the board of commissioners. We had our own take on some of those deals. An excerpt from the original post:

Earlier this year, the Board voted to purchase 33.2 acres of land south of Dacula. In that deal, the land owner applied to the Board to change the zoning of the land so that he could build a 91-home subdivision on it. The Board denied his request and allowed him to build only 33 homes. In response, the developer sued the county. The county initiated proceedings to purchase the land (which the county needs about as much as it needs a hole in the head – the land is intended to expand an adjacent 294-acre plot of undeveloped park land that has been sitting around for about eight years now). The county appraiser valued the land at just over a million dollars. Bannister decided that that figure was far too low and introduced a copy of the developer’s appraisal, which was based on 2006 land sales and valued the land at $2.29 million. Bannister claims that he believes the second appraisal to be the more accurate of the two. Thus the county, at the good Chairman’s behest, paid twice what the county appraisal said they should pay for a completely useless tract of unneeded, undeveloped land – all because the County Chairman was more concerned about the developer turning a profit on the sale than on saving the taxpayer’s dollars.

Guess who was involved in Gwinnett’s shady land deals? Those unneeded and overpriced 33.2 acres were purchased from none other than Marvin Hewatt.  From the AJC back in 2009 (emphasis added):

The four land purchases unfolded in a similar manner.

Developers first tried to get their land rezoned in order to build mixed-use developments, apartment complexes or subdivisions.

The county commissioners —and in one case the Sugar Hill City Council— either rejected the rezoning requests or gave developers less valuable zonings than they asked for. The developers responded by filing lawsuits — three against the county and the fourth against the Sugar Hill.

Soon after, the county bought the land from prominent developers David Jenkins, David Bowen, Wayne Mason and Marvin Hewatt. Three of the purchases settled lawsuits.

Buying land to settle lawsuits with developers is not common practice in other metro Atlanta counties, including Cobb, DeKalb and Cherokee.

“Our attitude is not to turn around and buy their property, because we refuse to let them do whatever they want to do,” Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said he believes the pattern of lawsuits raises questions about some of his colleagues’ involvement with developers.

Charles Bannister, former chairman of the board of country commissioners, was nearly indicted for perjury. What did he allegedly lie about? Meeting with Marvin Hewatt:

The proposed indictment released Monday said Bannister made a false statement to the grand jury when he denied meeting with Marvin Hewatt, a developer, on Feb. 24, 2009. He also denied receiving an appraisal from Hewatt or James Clower, an appraiser, regarding a tract of land that was the subject of a lawsuit between Hewatt and the Board of Commissioners, the document said.

The AJC reported a year ago on the county’s decision to buy 33.2 acres south of Dacula from Hewatt. An appraiser hired by the county valued the land at a little more than $1 million, but Bannister helped persuade his colleagues to pay $2.29 million for the land. He took a copy of an older appraisal that the developer bankrolled to a closed-door commission meeting for other commissioners to consider. That appraisal, based on 2006 land sales, was for $2.42 million.

Bannister didn’t deny his role in upping the final price the county paid to Hewatt. In an interview with the AJC, he said believed the developer’s appraisal was the more accurate one.

In other words, Marvin Hewatt was involved in a law suit with the county involving a large tract of land; he and his little buddy Bannister got together and figured out a way for the country to pay Hewatt roughly twice what the land was actually worth. Bannister tried to pussyfoot around the issue, initially claiming that he did not meet with Hewatt nor accept an inflated land appraisal from Hewatt.

Marvin Hewatt has already been involved in one instance of shady governing. While I cannot be sure that Hewatt actively sought out special treatment from Bannister, all evidence seems to point in that direction. Now he has donated a huge sum of money to a gubernatorial candidate — a candidate who has already shown absolutely no compunctions about using his public office to benefit himself and his cronies.

Just what special treatment did Marvin Hewatt purchase for $50,000? How many taxpayer dollars would go to line this big spender’s pocket after election day?

Can’t trust the money and can’t trust Deal.

No Deal, Georgia.

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